Kim Eslinger
Editor
612-321-8040
kim@millcitymedia.org

David Tinjum
Publisher
612-321-8020
dave@millcitymedia.org

Ryan Ojard
Staff Photographer

Claudia Kittock
Columnist / Non-Profits
Email Claudia...

Merle Minda
Small Business Columnist
Email Merle...

Kathleen Boe
River Matters Columnist

Meg Forney
Contributor

Doug Verdier
Contributor 

Mill City Times is a not-for-profit community service.  We do not sell advertising on this site.

Cultural Cornerstones
Search Mill City
Recent News
Front Page Archives
Saturday
Apr292017

The Task Force to End Street Homelessness

Article by Claudia Kittock, photo by Rick Kittock

The enormity of ending street homelessness seems impossible. There are too many issues, too many barriers, too many things that must be dealt with to provide that hand up. However, since joining this task force, I have learned that a small group of involved people CAN change the world, or at least our part of the word. The cliché is true!

The Minneapolis Downtown Council (MDC) is a membership-based business organization that focuses on creating an extraordinary downtown for all who live, work, play and explore our city. Goals include collaborating with public, private and non-profit organizations to create a vibrant atmosphere in our city’s core, advocating for initiatives that promote growth and stability, and aiming to help create a strong, inclusive 21st Century City.

This group of businesses has focused their energies in several areas including downtown developing, greening and the public realm, the downtown experience, ending street homelessness, transportation, and launching a festival of ideas. I have been involved with the task force to end street homelessness for several years and will explain the work being done to reach that goal. The most exciting part of this work is to know that not only is it possible to end street homelessness in our city, but to know it can happen quickly with the right resources.

Here is part of that plan to end street homelessness:

Ending street homelessness is defined as providing shelter for all who sleep on the streets or in other unsuitable places. It means chemical dependency and mental health treatment, job training and “meaningful activities” to occupy those who are unemployable and hang out aimlessly on the streets. It also means continuing the impressive and ongoing efforts by police, the city attorney’s office and the Minneapolis DID to target Downtown’s top 100 street offenders, people who are arrested repeatedly for lifestyle crimes such as public intoxication, public urination and aggressive panhandling. Nearly all of these chronic offenders are homeless.

This problem is solvable, however, if resources can be assembled. The solution is smart, cost-effective and doable. Minneapolis intends to become the first major U.S. city to end street homelessness. The estimated cost (presumably through public and private sources) will be about $4 million for the first year, with declining amounts needed in subsequent years.

The result will improve the lives of homeless people. And it will save public money. A 2005 study found that just 37 chronic offenders cost the city and county $3.7 million a year. That’s an average of $100,000 per offender for jail, detox, hospitalization and shelter.

Ending street homeless will also decrease the negative behaviors (loitering, panhandling, public intoxication, etc.) that damage livability and deter investment in Downtown. Eliminating street homelessness will be a huge force in moving forward the other major goals of this report.

                                                Intersections, 2025 Plan, Downtown Council

When I joined the task force as a representative of downtown residents, I was impressed with the array of experts who took time out of their busy lives to work on this project. There are representatives from the non-profit sector, including people from Catholic Charities, Simpson Housing, and the DID Block By Block program. The City Council is represented, the library, Hippy Feet, and many other businesses. Some of the highlights from the work of this group include:

·  Members of our committee attended the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless “Day on the Hill” event at the State Capital to participate in the advocacy efforts and raise awareness for the street homeless population.

·  We met with the Minneapolis Foundation to begin our process of developing a Grant Review Committee who will oversee the RFP process, distribution, and post-grant evaluations of donations that we have received to end street homelessness.

·  Our two sub-committees have implemented logic models to define, measure, track their projected goals.

·  We met with a new start-up company that is working on developing an app for individuals experiencing homelessness.

·  Presentations: St. Stephen's Veteran’s Outreach Program, House of Charity, and Shane Zahn from Minneapolis SafeZone regarding the ISS Command 24/7 communication app for street outreach programs.

Every one of these people brings considerable expertise to solving the complexities of street homelessness. The diversity of the membership brings ‘answers’ from all sectors. Each of these answers adds a small piece of the puzzle to this difficult issue.

Joseph DesenclosLed by Joseph Desenclos, the group has two primary subcommittees; daytime activities and education/public relations. The education group is working to find a way to educate the public about this issue. People experiencing homelessness are often children, are usually working (sometimes 2 jobs), have experienced serious medical issues, etc. I learned ALL of that, and this subcommittee is working to make sure the general public learns it, too.

The education/public relations committee is working on or has completed the following:

·  Are in the process of working with the staff at MDC to develop a website to assist in PR/Education efforts. The targeted date of completion is August, 2017.

·  Create opportunities (host) gatherings that educate the public on issues revolving around street homelessness.

·  Establish the Grant Review Subcommittee, focusing on drafting the grant committee description/purpose statement with the Minneapolis Foundation staff. Our desire is to have the composition of this sub-committee (5-7 members) to include private sector internal committee members and a couple members MDC Executive Board.

·  Reach out to large employers for street homeless education opportunities.

I serve on the daytime activities subcommittee. Every morning, people living in shelters are required to leave and cannot check back in until late in the afternoon. How do you occupy your day? If you are working, it often means that you have to take all your worldly possessions to work with you every day. It is a difficult issue. We are working to build lists of activities and resources. Finding safe and warm places to just ‘be’ and to make plans for what comes next is a high priority for us.

Here are a few more highlights of some of the work that has been accomplished:

·  Actively engaging with three cities that have implemented a day labor program for individuals who engage in panhandling.

·  Advocating for expanded access to bicycles for transportation needs for individuals experiencing homelessness.

·  Develop case studies for inclusive non-social service daytime activities.

·  In 2016 we completed an evaluation of available storage units for individuals experiencing homelessness within drop-in centers and emergency shelters. Currently there is a need for an additional 600 lockers to address the gap between number of lockers and emergency shelter population.

·  We have completed and are implementing a mapping tool for social service employment programs, job fairs, employment agencies, etc.

This work is real and is already changing lives every single day. But there is still great need and help is needed to both continue this work, and to be the first major city to eliminate street homelessness. You can help by:

·  Learning about the 2025 Plan and ways to be involved.

·  Donate to the Minneapolis Downtown Council and designate the check to go for ending street homelessness

·  Contact Joseph Desenclos at jdesenclos@blockbyblock.com

Claudia can be reached at claudia@millcitymedia.org

« Remembering History, Looking Forward | Main | Make your dog a star! Submit a video to Candid Canines Film Fest at the 2017 Aquatennial »